Wild hermit crabs are omnivorous. They will scavenge the beach looking for morsels of food. The nutritional requirements of a hermit crab have not had a lot of research. There are commercially prepared foods, it doesn't hurt and helps to supplement this food with ground up cuttlebone, oatmeal, ground up whole rice, and grits. Calcium is very important for the hermit crab however, dairy food cannot be digested by hermit crabs and it can kill them. Add some ground up cuttlebone to the food. Try a little cut up egg. The hermit crab enjoys treats. Stay away from acidy fruits such as citrus and tomatoes. Think tropical- they love mangos and papaya. They love tiny amounts of peanut butter, raisins, and nuts. (Grind into tiny bite size pieces. You can feed fish vegetable flakes, fish food flakes, plant and fruit based reptile food (like iguanas). It is best to use only organic food there are so many additives and chemicals that are harmful. Put "wet" foods in a separate dish. Leave the food for a short time and then throw it away and clean the dish. Food will spoil quickly in this humid environment.
Most land hermit crabs need fresh filtered water (with no chlorine) as well as aquarium sea salt or marine salt for example; Instant Ocean Salt bought in the aquatic section of a pet supply (again, no chlorine). There is a sea salt available in grocery stores this is not the same thing and could be harmful to the hermit crab, especially if it contains iodine. The Hermit crab with need two separate shallow dishes, one for fresh water, and one with the marine salt mixture. Make sure you put in the natural sponge as well as smooth pebbles or clean shells so that the crab can enter and exit the water without drowning.
Bathing is important to the hermit crab however, I don’t believe they have a bath house in the wild complete with a bath attendant to do the bathing for them. You have supplied them with a dish of chlorine free fresh water with a natural sponge. You have already made sure it is not too deep so that the hermit crab could drown. Supply very smooth shells and pebbles so that the crab can climb in and out of the water. You have also supplied the hermit crab with a dish of marine aquarium salt. The hermit crab will know exactly what he needs at that given moment.
This was my buddy no matter where I was this hermit crab would be there. This is their play enclosure. It is huge. I found that hermit crabs were quite interactive, intelligent, and could be affectionate in their own way. Herman (very unusual name for a hermie:) like to check out every shell, always kept a good grip on his original shell; but never decided to change shells.
The container, substrate, and dishes must be kept clean and sanitary! Bacteria will grow quickly in this humid warm environment and make your hermit crab ill. Make sure all dishes, shells, any items are boiled for at least five minutes and cooled before you put them in the enclosure. You don't want to clean the substrate when a hermit crab is molting. Don't bother a molting crab he or she is already quite stressed out.
The hermit crab will of course be frightened when you bring him home. They can pinch. The bigger crabs can get a good hold of you and pinch hard. Let the little fellow get use to you. Don't drop him! Imagine being so small and have someone pick you up, it would be downright scary to be that far up off the ground. Hermit crabs are delicate and well die if they fall. All pets, especially the hermit crab react negatively to stress. The hermit crab will be stressed out by the time he makes it home. He could also be too warm. Put him in his enclosure immediately and leave him alone until at least the next day other than providing essentials. The habitat should have been completely set up before bringing the hermit crab home.
Another very stressful time for the hermit crab is molting. Animals with exoskeletons grow by molting. They shed their exoskeleton and then grow a new one. They will bury (tunneling) themselves in the sand for protection while they are growing their new exoskeleton. Burying themselves is mimicking the caves they dig if they were still in the wild. It takes a variety of needs to begin a molt – they prefer darkness while molting, must have proper nutrition, humidity, temperature, and marine salt water. Several inches of the sand substrate should be damp otherwise they will not be able to tunnel down to molt. The number of inches depends on the size of the hermit crabs in the enclosure. Do not do a complete clean of their enclosure if a hermit crab is molting. In fact, leave them completely alone during this highly stressful and vulnerable time. Leave the old exoskeleton, the hermit crab will eat it when he is done molting. It is believed the hermit crab eats the exoskeleton for the nutrients which it needs after a molt. It is best to put a molting hermit crab in a separate enclosure from the other hermit crabs. Make sure the molting enclosure has the essentials he will need. Other crabs may cannibalize a molting crab. Hermit crabs are opportunist when it comes to eating.
After molting the hermit crab will require a bigger shell, or sometimes for whatever reason they pick out a smaller shell. Have several different shells for the hermit crab to examine. Stay away from painted shells they could have a toxic paint. Look for shells that aren't too thick on the bottom. To thick can over heat the hermit crab. When you bring home new shells don't forget to disinfect them by boiling them. Make sure you cool them before adding to the enclosure. Don't pick up shells off the beach. Hermit crabs are over farmed by pet stores and people wanting to sell them. The shell problem is even worst. The hermit crabs often have to find a substitute for a shell. I found a small hermit crab in Shelter Cove, California that sported a Pepsi cap for a shell.
Another reason for a separate enclosure would be a quarantine enclosure. This would be a separate habitat than the one used for molting. All pets, including hermit crabs, should be quarantined to watch for illness, bugs, or any other unforeseen problems that would be passed to your existing crabs.
What you do to your house affects the hermit crab. What you may do without a second thought could kill the hermit crab such as scented sprays, fly spray, cooking with Teflon pots or pans. Think before you spray cologne or use an acetone based nail polish remover. These are the same things that can kill birds. Find out from the city, when mosquito season arrives, when they are going to spray. Make sure the house is closed up when they do spray.
As always do your research before purchasing any pet! Keep the cage and materials clean. Above all else enjoy your pet hermit crab!
***Hermit Crabs - Pet Hermit Crabs
***Hermit Crabs – For Sale
Hermit Crabs: Complete Pet Owner's Manual
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